Irish doctor making a difference in the fight against oral cancer

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Irish doctor Eleanor O’Sullivan is making massive strides in the fight against oral cancer.

Dr O’Sullivan is a specialist in the treatment of head and neck cancer and has been instrumental in establishing Mouth Cancer Awareness Day, which offers members of the public the chance to have free oral cancer screenings. Dr O’Sullivan is chairwoman of Mouth Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Ireland and a clinical lecturer in Oral Surgery at Cork University Dental School and Hospital.

Last year’s Mouth Cancer Awareness Day event saw 10,000 people screened for oral cancer. The first event, held in 2010, enabled more than 3,000 people to be screened and six cases of the disease were detected. Dr O’Sullivan’s main aim is to raise awareness of the disease for more cases to be diagnosed at an early stage when the chances of successful treatment are higher. At the moment most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage and survival rate is only around 50 per cent.

Dr O’Sullivan and her colleagues decided to set up Mouth Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Ireland in 2009 as a result of low public awareness. The initiative was supported by the Irish Dental Association, the Dental Health Foundation, the Irish Cancer Society and survivors of head and neck cancer.

This year’s Mouth Cancer Awareness day took place on September 19th and was supported by 700 dentists and pharmacists across the country with more than 10,000 people screened for oral cancer.

Dr O’Sullivan said that the major risk factors for oral cancer were smoking and drinking. However, the disease can affect anybody and this is why everyone must be aware of the symptoms and warning signs, which include lumps in the throat or mouth, red or white mouth patches and ulcers or sores. The average age of people affected by head and neck cancer is 61, but there has been an increase in the number of younger people diagnosed in recent years.

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